May 8, 2012 - After Daniel Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn’t taken to Gitmo. Instead, the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to death in the process. Chong, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration. After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who was "in the wrong place at the wrong time." ...
Chong was arrested in a federal drug raid, he wasn’t taken to Gitmo. Instead,
the Feds thoughtfully arranged to bring Gitmo to him, nearly torturing him to
death in the process.
a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was one of nine people
swept up in an April 21 narcotics raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
After his arrest he spent four hours handcuffed in a cell before being
questioned. One of the agents who questioned Chong described him as someone who
was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
interrogated, the student was told that he would be released and provided with
paperwork to sign. He was then handcuffed and put into a five-by-ten-foot
detention cell, where he
was held for five days in conditions that qualify as torture under any rational
reading of either domestic or international law.
The DEA’s story
was that Chong was simply "forgotten." A likelier explanation is that he was
ignored, or even singled out for deliberate abuse. Chong shouted and screamed
for help, kicking against the heavy door of his cell. Although his hands were
cuffed, he managed to tear a small fragment from his jacket, which he shoved
under the door in an effort to get the attention of his jailers.
Since Chong had
no difficulty hearing conversations and other sounds outside his cell, there’s
no reason to doubt that his pleas were heard, and simply disregarded.
For at least
two days and nights, Chong was left alone, handcuffed, in complete darkness,
and began to hallucinate. Fearing that he might die in captivity, Chong shattered
his eyeglasses and used broken shards to carve the words "Sorry, mother" into
has admitted he had gone to a friend’s house to commemorate "4/20," an
unofficial observance celebrating recreational marijuana use, he was not
charged with a narcotics offense. Through its prohibition enforcement action,
DEA managed to create conditions in which Chong ingested substances much worse
for him than marijuana. Left for several days without food or water to sustain
him, Chong made a futile attempt to trigger an overhead fire sprinkler, and
then eventually drank his own urine. Tormented by the insistent protests of an
empty stomach, he consumed a small amount of a white, powdery substance that
was found to be methamphetamine.
By the time two
agents "discovered" him, Chong was literally pleading for his captors to kill
him. After being released, he was hospitalized for severe dehydration, renal
failure, a perforated esophagus, and cramps. He had shed 15 pounds. He has
never received an apology.
If a dog had
been subjected to treatment similar to the abuse inflicted on Daniel Chong,
those responsible would face felony
charges. Thanks to the spurious principle of "supremacy
clause immunity," there is no measurable likelihood that the people who
nearly tortured Chong to death will face criminal charges. It’s quite likely
they will never be identified.
It’s not just
the Feds employed by the DEA – an agency best described as the CIA’s
slow-witted sibling – who enjoy this privilege.
who had recently been prescribed a potent anti-depressant called Lexapro,
suddenly left his home in Cleveland to visit family in Ft. Myers. When he arrived at his brother’s house,
Christie’s behavior became dangerously erratic.
Acting on the
common and entirely misplaced assumption that police intervention is a good
idea in situations of this kind, Joyce called the Lee County Sheriff’s
Department to ask them to find Nick and get him to a hospital. After deputies
found the retired boilermaker, they arrested him on trespassing charges.
the next 43 hours, Christie was repeatedly shackled in a restraint chair,
hooded, and attacked
with military-grade pepper spray. The chemical assault was so intense that
it left other inmates gagging on the fumes. Christie, who suffered from
respiratory and heart disease, pleaded with deputies to remove the spit mask
because he couldn’t breathe. One inmate described how Nick turned "purple and
almost blue" as he suffocated.
personnel arrived to check on Nick, they were overwhelmed by the pepper spray
residue. The victim died of heart failure two days after his arrest. The death
was ruled a homicide – but the State Attorney’s office insisted that there is
no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the deputies who tortured
Nick Christie to death.
blanket immunity from prosecution shields the members of the thugscrum –at least
ten and as many as fifteen officers – from Fresno, California, who beat,
pepper-sprayed, and repeatedly tasered a man named Raul Rosas.
The police had
arrived at Rosas’s residence on June 6 of last year in response to an
unspecified "domestic disturbance." When the police arrived, Rosas took refuge
in the bathroom. One of the officers kicked open the front door and dragged out
the unarmed man, who was immediately hit with a dose of pepper spray. The chemical
weapon attack was a prelude to a full-scale onslaught: Witnesses reported
hearing the sounds of a taser being used for at least eight to ten minutes.
Rosas, the assailants earned extra points for creative sadism by using a garden
hose to drown him as he pleaded for water – a crude but effective simulacrum of
atrocity was witnessed by Rosas’s horrified children and several neighbors,
who repeatedly warned that the victim was suffocating. "After some time had
passed, [Rosas] had clear spit bubbles coming out of his mouth," recounts a
lawsuit filed by the victim’s family. "Witnesses observed [his] lips turn
When one of the
witnesses told the cops they were killing Rosas, one of them sneeringly
insisted that the victim was "faking it." Eventually one of the officers felt
for a pulse and found nothing. None of the officers involved in this
torture-murder has ever been publicly identified, much less subjected to
prosecution or administrative punishment.
foregoing cases, it could be said that Pennsylvania resident Derena Marie
Madison was comparatively fortunate: Although she was physically abused and
humiliated, she wasn’t killed or severely injured.
At about 2:30
a.m. on February 3, 2011, Pennsylvania State Troopers Chad Weaver and Michael
Zampogna pulled over a vehicle driven by Jamie Cornell, who was arrested on
suspicion of driving while intoxicated. After Cornell was taken into custody,
the troopers threatened to have the vehicle towed. This prompted Madison, who was a
passenger, to exit the car in protest. This gave the troopers an excuse to
arrest her for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Shackled at the
wrists and ankles, Madison was taken to a nearby State Police barracks, where
she was chained to a bench with her hands cuffed behind her back. Without provocation,
Weaver hit Madison with two blasts of pepper spray to her face. None of the
other officers intervened.
with handcuffs and leg shackles, Madison was unable to wipe the pepper spray
residue from her face. In response to her pleas for help, several troopers –
whom she couldn’t identify, because she was blinded from the pepper spray -- carried
her downstairs and outside the barracks. After being thrown to the snowy ground
and doused with a large quantity of water, Madison blacked out. When she
regained consciousness, she quickly realized that one or more of the assailants
had urinated on her head, face, and neck. Taken back to
inside the barracks, Madison was chained to the bench again and briefly held
before being released without receiving medical attention. Eleven days later,
she was formally charged with public drunkness and disorderly conduct, and
eventually found guilty on both charges.
Miss Madison’s lawsuit,
the State Troopers didn’t contest her account; instead, they claimed that their
actions were taken pursuant to their duties, and therefore they were protected
by "sovereign immunity," maintaining that "subduing persons is one of the acts
law enforcement officers are employed to perform [and that] officers are also
permitted to use force, if necessary, in the commission of their duties."
Although the Troopers described Madison as an "out-of-control person," there is no
evidence that she did anything other than express her displeasure over the
prospect of being abandoned once Cornell’s vehicle had been towed away.
honesty uncommon among those in his profession, U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster
rejected the "sovereign immunity" claim. Repeatedly assaulting a handcuffed
woman with pepper spray and urinating on her serves "no legitimate law
enforcement purpose," but indicates a "personal motivation, rather than intent
to serve the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." This raises the troubling
possibility that behavior of this kind could be considered appropriate if it
were "authorized" as a matter of official policy.
possibility was raised by a ruling in the case of Niagara, New York resident
S. Smith, who was tortured into providing a DNA sample to police.
Smith, a repeat
offender, was suspected of involvement in a July 2006 home invasion and
kidnapping. When three of the suspects took one of the hostages to another
home, Smith allegedly remained behind to guard two small children, who had been
bound and gagged. While there, the suspect helped himself to a soda, apparently
unaware that by doing so he would leave behind potentially incriminating DNA
The DNA residue from the soda can was eventually matched by the FBI's
Combined DNA System (CODIS) with a sample previously
taken from Smith. In August 2008, Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza
issued an order requiring Smith to provide a DNA sample via a painless swab of
his inner cheek. Smith didn't object, and the sample was taken without
At this point, the
story becomes complicated by professional incompetence. The Niagara Falls
Police sent the sample to the wrong lab, where it was opened and contaminated.
went back to Judge Sperrazza
for a second order, which -- unlike the first one – was granted ex parte.
This means that Smith's defense counsel was not informed or consulted. Smith refused
to provide a second DNA sample.
This prompted the
police to consult with the County District Attorney's office to learn how much
force they could employ to compel Smith to provide potentially
self-incriminating evidence – a question that should be foreclosed by the Fifth
As Detective Lt.
William Thomson would later testify, Assistant Niagara County D.A. Doreen M. Hoffmann,
who is presiding over the prosecution of Ryan Smith, instructed the police that
"we could use the minimum force that was necessary" to force the
suspect to submit to a DNA test.
That formulation is a tautology, since it authorizes the use of any amount
of force needed to extract the sample. As long as the police were
reasonably careful in calibrating the duress the applied, they could continue
escalating the level of force until it broke the suspect; wherever they end up
would obviously be the "minimum" necessary to accomplish their
Smith was brought in
handcuffs to the police station and informed that the investigators had been
authorized to use physical force. Although nobody intended to harm him, Smith
was told, the sample was going to be surrendered; it was just a question of how
much he wanted to endure before it was. Smith still refused to comply.
The police elected to
use a taser in "drive stun" mode in order to force Smith to cough up the DNA
sample. On the basis of that evidence – which was extracted through torture,
albeit of a comparatively mild variety, Smith was hit with a 24-count criminal
indictment. He was also charged with "criminal contempt of court" for
forcing his interrogators to torture him.
When Smith's defense counsel filed a motion to suppress the evidence based on
Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections, the same Judge who issued the ex parte
orders produced a ruling validating the use of taser torture as means of forcing compliance,
as long as it's not done "maliciously" or to "excess."
Judge Sperrazza is "the first judge in
western civilization to say you can use a Taser to enforce a court order," complained
Patrick Balkin, Smith's defense counsel. He
also pointed out that the precedent could inspire other practical
applications of electro-shock
"pain compliance": "They have now given the Niagara Falls police
discretion to Taser
anybody anytime they think it’s reasonable. [Sperrazza's] decision says you can
enforce a court order by force. If you extrapolate that, we no longer have to
have child support hearings; you can just Taser the parent."
In a lawsuit filed against the City of Niagara Falls,
Smith alleged that he was "tortured into unconsciousness" by repeated
charges. The police investigators insist that they were much gentler in the
application of electro-shock
trauma, but their testimony regarding the number and duration of shocks is
mutually self-contradictory (as well as inconsistent with the record kept by
Smith was eventually
convicted of nearly two dozen offenses. Last March, the New York State Supreme Court
overturned Smith’s conviction and ordered a new trial, ruling that the use
of a taser to compel the prisoner to surrender a DNA sample was "excessive
force." At the time, Smith "posed no immediate threat to the safety of himself
or officers, nor did he attempt to evade the officers by flight," recounts the
decision. Smith "was handcuffed, seated on the floor, and surrounded by three
patrol officers and two detectives…. [He] did not threaten, fight with, or
physically resist the officers at any time; rather, he simply refused to open
his mouth to allow the officers to obtain a buccal swab."
This is not to say
that the ruling foreclosed the future use of taser torture as a police
interrogation method. The court suggested that the police could have arrested
Smith for "criminal contempt," and then obtained "judicial approval to use
physical force if necessary to extract the DNA sample."
That proposal was
offered by Dershowtiz a decade ago as a way of addressing a "ticking bomb"
scenario involving a hidden nuclear weapon; the New York Supreme Court’s
standard would authorize the use of judicially sanctioned torture as an
instrument of prosecutorial convenience.
"Criminal means, once tolerated, are soon
preferred," warned Edmund Burke, a maxim abundantly vindicated by the quiet normalization -- and the resulting
near-ubiquity -- of torture as a law enforcement tactic in contemporary America.
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